Hilarious magazine covers reveal the emperor has no clothes

Ramit Sethi · June 22nd, 2010

From a terrific Gawker piece, look at these magazine covers. Notice anything?

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They’re all the same!

Magazines are designed to sell advertising, not good financial advice. Yet millions of Americans get their kooky investing ideas from so-called personal-finance magazines. This is why people think “stocks=investing” and are fascinated by alternative investments, but don’t know the first thing about setting up a system to automate their finances and investing.

I’ve written extensively on the media and personal finance:

…and other rants about dumb people.

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  1. Quote from early 2007’s post: “The media is atrociously bad at prediction and I’m sick of it”:

    “In another example, Robert Roubini, president of Roubini Global Economics and some pundit, predicted a 2007 recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen in over a decade: “By itself this slump is enough to trigger a U.S. recession: its effects on real residential investment, wealth and consumption, and employment will be more severe than the tech bust that triggered the 2001 recession.” Hmm.”

    Hmm. And it ironically illustrates your point about how no one’s good at prediction. A post truly brilliant in an error. But seriously, thanks for pointing out this Gawker post.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Great comment. I’m as skeptical of my predictive abilities as anyone else’s. That’s why I advocate indexing and dollar-cost averaging no matter what you think will happen. You can’t time the market.

      I am always skeptical of doomsayers and Chicken Little people, who love to spout gloom and doom with no specifics or accountability, using it as an excuse to not invest. Instead, I continue investing because I believe that, over the long term, investment returns in the market will handily trump gold, commodities, or virtually any other investment — as history has shown to be the case.

  2. Here’s the more in-depth story about this: — less shocker than Ramit makes it out to be. Alas.

    Bottom line: newstand version of a magazine recycles the eye-catching headlines, subscriber version has more variety. Makes sense.

  3. Yeah, but eye-candy is eye-candy, and what a way to start the day! 😀

    Also why I never buy magazines. At most, a copy of the Economist if I’m planning on spending a boatload of time on the train, but if you’ve read one, you’ve read ’em all.

  4. Lauren

    Boy, this is better than coffee!! In a minute, I’ll get to the point of the blog, but right now, thank you!

  5. Not sure I’m understanding the point of this blog, or the tie in to personal finances?

    So Men’s Health makes multiple covers for each magazine. What is the problem with that?

  6. ctreit

    How is this different from “I will teach you to be rich” and other blogs, financial sites, etc.? I am sure that writers of popular personal finance magazines do not set out to deliberately mislead the public. They are probably just as convinced as you are that they are giving their readers the correct view of personal finance and good advice. They are also as much in it to make a living out of sharing their views as you are. The good news is that some, maybe only few, but still some benefit from any one these magazines, from blogs, various financial sites, etc.

  7. amandalee

    Gawker’s sister site, Jezebel, has done similar comparisons with women’s magazines from pretty far back – some of these headlines are recycled from the 1950s. It goes to show, though, that there’s a difference between truth and education vs. selling a magazine.

  8. I can’t say that I’m surprised, but I can’t get mad about it. I can’t say that I expect much more from Men’s Health than something to skim at the barber shop, in the gym or at the doctor’s office while I’m waiting. Outside of magazines that deal with actual news, content is gonna get recycled at some point. Doesn’t matter if it’s one of the gazillion women’s style magazines, a cooking magazine or something relating to a sport, like Runner’s World, there’s only so many times you can write an article about how to work your abs, try something new in the bedroom, new fashions, how to make a casserole or run your first 5K.

    • Mike P

      Totally agree, Runner’s World is interesting to read but content is highly recycled. Some good in-depth articles now and then but once you have 12 issues in your library you could cancel your subscription.

      All the personal finance mags pretty much suck.

    • The one magazine that’s been pretty decent for a while for athletics/fitness/outdoors has been “Outside”. They do, of course, recycle some content, but a lot of the articles about other stuff are really well-written and interesting.

  9. Teresa D

    There’s words on these covers?

    • Fabrice

      No. No more than there are articles in Playboy!

  10. How bout ” succesful saving magazine ” ?

    Naa.. just kidding. Its just a fictional magazine from movie “confession of a shopaholic”.
    yea…. agree.. magazine is just a promotional tool with some content added.

    However I use magazine a motivational tool for whatever I’m trying to achive. If I wanna excercise more I read “men’s health”.. if I wanna run more I read “runner’s world”.. etc.

  11. I also love how these magazines try to portray the answer to everything as hacks and tips, such that if you read the magazine, you’ll somehow be in better shape. Eat healthy and exercise. It’s a simple truth, but the “information manifest destiny” crowd would rather keep distracting themselves with the next shiny thing, than actually commit to getting in shape.

  12. In defense of magazine publishers, it’s incredibly hard to predict which covers will sell best. If you find a formula that works, why not use it as long as it keeps working? That’s just like investing.

    And recycled content? Of course, The readership of a magazine is a moving target. If the age is 21-36, people are always moving out of reading it and always moving into it, so the same information (there’s only so much you can say about any one topic) will be new and useful.

    Also they cost very little time or money to design and they’re instantly recognizable on a newsstand. Cover design as brand. It all makes sense.